A Spring meeting of the Poverty Bay Turf Club at the Makaraka Racecourse in 1900.

A rich history of horse racing

Makaraka is an outer village suburb of Gisborne in New Zealand's North Island. It is located to the west of the city and is the home of the Makaraka Racecourse. It is a location steeped in horse racing history and equestrian tradition.

Built by the Poverty Bay Turf Club – the earliest such club in the Tairawhiti region — the Makaraka Racecourse's Old Grandstand represents the rich history of horse racing in the region. The club held its first meeting in 1870, and for the first few years it held its race days on privately-owned paddocks.

By 1875 the Turf Club began looking for a more permanent course, and land was purchased at Makaraka (Roseland) in the late 1880s. The course, including the Old Grandstand building, was completed by 1891. The Poverty Bay Herald, describing the grounds and newly-erected buildings, proclaimed that, "not a necessary detail has been omitted to render the Roseland course one of the best in the colony." Of note was the grandstand, designed by William Peter Finneran, and built by W.O. Skeet. The grandstand was considered to be a most sightly structure of its class in its day and still retains a sense of old world grandeur today.

The Makaraka Racecourse Old Grandstand is approximately three storeys high and is architecturally significant as an example of the work of Peter William Finneran, who designed a number of buildings in the Gisborne region, some of which are also registered with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust. While the grandstand has been altered since it was built in 1891, stand seating, balustrades, ceiling and roof have been maintained in their original style ensuring that the grandstand retains much of its original architectural character.

It is one of what are becoming increasingly rare survivors of the type of ornate and well-proportioned grandstands built at racecourses around the country in the late nineteenth century. It creates a rich picture of the sport of horse racing and the activities and behaviours of people who attended the races in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The adjacent stewards grandstand was erected in 1915.

Pov erty Bay Turf Club, horse racing in Gisborne

History of Gisborne Races at the Poverty Bay Turf Club which hosts a summer festival of horse racing annually at the Makaraka Race Course in Gisborne, New Zealand